Yesterday marked one of the sadder days of my life. In June of this year I was appointed as a circuit rider to two small country churches. Now, I am only serving one church.
The Riceville Methodist Church began as a pre-civil war era congregation. Records indicate that their first pastor was licensed to preach in 1846. This means the church began about eight years after the Trail of Tears and about 15 years before the Civil War. It originally aligned with the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. This simply means that the probably favored the southern way of life or at least the right to defend this portion of Tennessee.
After moving a couple of different times, the church was built on its current location near "downtown" U.S. Highway 11. It was erected in 1901and served the community until the final service was held yesterday. In early Methodist tradition, we gathered together under the large oak tree, sang hymns, shared stories and held the final closing service. The Riceville United Methodist church closed on November 10, 2012 at 2:00 p.m.
A lot of prayer and soul searching went into the decision to close. Stories told by the people whose lives were touched by the church will always stay with me. Being there was one of the sadder moments that I have experienced. No pastor wants to hold a closing service and I am privileged and honored that so many other pastors from the area were able to come. It reminds me that no man is an island. Attendance by members of the sister church on the circuit and the other attendees speaks of the connectionalism of the United Methodist Church.
In the midst of grief, we have each other. Even more than that, we have a God who is in control. Even though this church has closed there are new ministries beginning in other parts of the area and our church members are finding new homes. I give thanks for that.